Malaysia requires a holistic maritime blueprint, say analysts

By Dr. Izyan Munirah Mohd Zaideen, senior lecturer at Faculty of Maritime Studies, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu; and Captain Mohd Faizal Ramli, EHS Marine Specialist in oil and gas sector.

The need for a proper policy is real and urgent to assist the maritime industry to remain pertinent and competitive in both local and international markets. To make the shipping sector a pillar of the national economy, Malaysia must establish a welcoming atmosphere in the face of increasing competition.

The Malaysia Shipping Master Plan (MSMP) for the period 2017 to 2022 aspired to make the shipping industry a pillar of the national economy with its strategies and action plans to address challenges, ranging from the ship itself to the recruitment and training of Malaysian seafarers and marine human capital, ship finance, commercial prospects, regulation, and auxiliary services.

Nonetheless, the debate of how extensively the MSMP has been implemented persisted. The findings demonstrated that the MSMP’s execution has fallen short of addressing the sector’s core environmental, security, safety, and economic issues, indicating potential for room of improvement.

As the MSMP officially ended last year, Malaysia now needs a new holistic and strategic blueprint to ensure the industry remains competitive. 

Undoubtedly, maritime governance has evolved over centuries based on sophisticated legal processes and precedents. The governing structure is rarely transparent, and with so many complex regulations, various divisions, and multilevel authorities, it is difficult for anyone affiliated with the sector to become fully engaged. For shipping to remain relevant and sustainable, effective, well-managed, and accountable governance structures must be in place.

To stay viable and remain competitive, bureaucracy should be reduced to a bare minimum. It is a great irony to lose lucrative maritime businesses as a result of administrative weaknesses. 

All stakeholders, from the government to NGOs, commercial sector and civil society, have a role to play, and a close partnership is essential for developing efficient maritime governance that may help us progress towards a more sustainable future. 

Malaysia’s future as a maritime nation is heavily reliant on the new strategic plan’s rapid and consistent execution. There is a need to strengthen the legal and regulatory framework, including integrated policies, actions, and related matters. A new plan and its comprehensive execution are significant since the maritime industry is essential to the development of the nation and is the major component of its commercial and economic structure. 

Shipping stewardship is dependent on the recruitment of skilled professionals in management and operations in the sectors. Maritime universities and training academies, in turn, translate those criteria into curriculum as they play critical roles in providing relevant courses for education, training, and accreditation. The training institution should not only reflect the industry’s current needs, but also be able to forecast the industry’s future path in generating higher and resilient students.

Also, the sector needs substantial financial investment as well as a favorable climate to support the growth of local capacity and allow local companies to prosper. This can be accomplished by legislative action or government support, both of which a master plan can help to articulate and spell out.

Obviously, the Ministry of Transport (MOT) is the primary decision-making agency for regulations and standards, allowing it to take the lead in maritime administration. Moving forward, it is prudent for MOT to allocate a significant budget for maritime research and development to address current issues such as emissions of greenhouse gases from vessels, the prospect of autonomous shipping, and bringing attention to the potential green fuel that is sustainable within the ecosystem.

The MOT must also consider its interaction with other intergovernmental organizations concerned with shipping governance, not only because obligations overlap, but also because the MOT is an integral constituent in dealing with the International Maritime Organization. Malaysia’s standing among maritime players will be bolstered by the agency’s committed and professional workforce with specialized knowledge in the appropriate segment.

A comprehensive analysis of the maritime setting is needed, taking into account the lessons learned and the relationships between the maritime industry, marine environment and ocean governance. A response mechanism that is reflected in a resilient policy will make Malaysia a major maritime player. The blueprint must include provisions for enhancing current facilities, such as the safety of navigation in the Strait of Melaka, and for continuous adaptation to the current economic condition.

Proficient maritime governance is required if the global shipping sector is to flourish. The actors in the sector must shed light on how the broader shipping blueprint may evolve in the next decades, kicking off a debate on how the whole shipping value chain will adapt.

The blueprint will serve as a resource for stakeholders throughout the shipping value chain, providing clear guidelines to businesses and institutions as they develop their strategic approaches through a holistic view and establishing milestones to address current and future sustainability challenges in the industry.

Photo credit: iStock/ Chatchawal

The best maritime news and insights delivered to you.

subscribe maritime fairtrade

Here's what you can expect from us:

  • Event offers and discounts
  • News & key insights of the maritime industry
  • Expert analysis and opinions on corruption and more